Published in the August 30 – September 12, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life
Harvesting may be in full swing, but fall will be here before you know it. This makes August the best time to start planning your autumn Morgan Hill garden.
Each individual region has its own characteristics and Morgan Hill is no exception. While other parts of the country use autumn to prepare for harsh winters, putting up storm windows, we have the luxury of yet another growing season.
Your tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, summer squash and melons are probably in full swing in August, but many heat sensitive plants have long since bolted and gone to seed. If you leave some of these plants in place, not only will they provide seeds for a future crop, but they will also provide nectar and pollen for many beneficial insects. The insects feed on or parasitize common garden pests, such as aphids, hornworms, cutworms, and many more.
With the help of these beneficial insects, you can reduce or avoid using chemical pesticides all together. Even if you do not actively collect seeds from the previous season’s crop, you will probably discover, next spring, that you have many edibles throughout your landscape.
Plants to start in August
To get a jump-start on your autumn planting, this is a good time to start seeds for artichoke, broccoli, cauliflower, chard, cilantro, collards, fava beans, fennel, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce and spinach, peas, and turnips.
You can also direct seed arugula and beets in August, and this is the time to install brussels sprouts and cabbage plants. Napa cabbage can be started now, as seeds or transplants.
With scorching hot days ahead, be sure to keep those seedlings watered and protected as they grow. They may need to be kept in a protected area, without too much direct sun.
As summer harvests reach their peak, you can help your plants stay healthy by removing dead and diseased plant materials.
In many cases, the more frequently you harvest, the more food a plant will produce. To feed and protect the current crop, while preparing for your autumn garden, be sure to add aged compost and other mulch material to your growing beds. This will add organic matter for improved soil structure, and it will stabilize temperatures, and feed the worms and microorganisms that help your garden plants thrive. That way, as September rolls around, your garden beds will be prepared for carrots and all the seedlings you start now.
Staying one step ahead of the gardening game can make your landscape more productive.
You can learn more about garden design at the South County Teaching and Demo Garden, found at St. Louise Hospital, 9400 No Name Uno, in Gilroy. You can learn more at www.mgsantaclara.ucanr.edu/demonstration-gardens/south-county-teaching-and-demonstration-garden/ Classes are regularly offered to the public.
For more information, check our events page at www.mgsantaclara.ucanr.edu/events or call (408) 282-3105 between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Kate Russell is a UCCE Master Gardener of Santa Clara County. She wrote this for Morgan Hill Life.